Added on Tuesday 17 Feb 2004
As everyone surely knows, The Perigord is world famous not only for the wines but for its duck and goose foie gras. We are surrounded by it here and, while I like it very occasionally, it is very difficult to avoid these delicacies in any of the local eating-places. Rightly so, as it is one of the major tourist attractions for the area. It unfortunately involves the force-feeding of corn directly down the gullet of the poor animals and demonstrations of this technique are happily carried out at farms and fairs all around the area, what's more these demonstrations are extremely popular with visitors. In fact we have several local producers of the product in the village of Salignac and for 3 weeks in the year we have a fair held in the hamlet of 'Barry' just below the Chateau here. Incidentally, the name comes, not from me, but from a certain Madame du Barry (a slightly more illustrious person than I) though I am happy to live at the top of rue de Barry!
I digress. The reason that I mention all this is because over the Christmas season we were given several presents of foie gras, magret du canard and one tin of foie gras with truffles, another highly expensive delicacy. All this costs a fortune but it is just considered normal practice for present giving over the festive season and we appreciate the thought and kindness greatly.
Having had these pressies we decided to make use of them and despite my prior avoidance, I realised that I actually liked it, my taste buds have now become acclimatised to French life! However, I must be careful of overdoing it, as I seem to remember that is why I rarely chose to eat all this touristy food, as I was once a tourist in The Perigord! We still have several large tins left so, maybe tonight?????
After having being in Salignac for almost four years we are now well and truly caught up with French bureaucracy with a vengeance. Having to regularise all our paperwork is what we are all about at this moment. This in itself is not a great problem, we after all, are members of the EU so all this should be straightforward enough (freedom to work, travel etc within the community) - not here in France where they have more civil servants per square inch than in any other country! Our biggest problem started with mis-information, a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, especially as the law in France changed recently and even they don't know about it. That combined with the different opening hours that each and every office or department have tended to make us ever so slightly frustrated. For example, we have to visit several offices in which are located next to each other and we have to do this in a certain order (or so we are told) one is open from 9 am to 3pm (unknown in France to be open over lunch) the next office we have to visit closes at lunchtime, which is when we will have left the first office, and is not open in the afternoon at all. This is further complicated by the fact that we have to visit several different towns and it seems that we never have the right paperwork with us. The French bureaucrats do love to see lots of bits of paper and take great delight in asking for something that we think is unnecessary and, of course, we don't have with us! All this for a few rubber stamps.
The demand for property in Salignac has suddenly increased recently and the house next door to us has been let to a Welshman who is married to a Frenchwoman and they have two delightful children. It is nice to see, and hear, the house being lively and they seem charming people and our other new neighbours, across the courtyard, arrived at the same time. This is a French father and son who have asked us in for a meal once they get settled in so we are looking forward to that. Mr Dubois, our Mayor, in his annual 'state of the Commune' bulletin commented on how many new people and businesses are moving in to Salignac these days. He forgot, or declined, to mention that it is mostly due to his efforts to make Salignac a thriving community again. He has been incredibly helpful to us, recently we had a slight crisis and went to seek his assistance, a few phone calls by him to the right people sorted the problem immediately and he has asked us since how things are. What a man?far too good to be a politician. Mind you, it is election year?or am I just being cynical?
Once again it is time for Cecile and Lillian at the caf? to go on their annual ski-ing holiday for two weeks, which leaves us without the option of a quick saunter up the road of an evening to enjoy a drink and the banter that makes up caf? life here. While the other caf? (cum petrol station, betting shop and Tabac) is equally nice and welcoming, it is just different and we don't tend to go there so frequently for some reason. Not that we have a great deal of need to do so as our friend, Alain, frequently turns up at our door clutching a bottle of wine so that we sit round the table, glass in hand, with the fire roaring away while he gives us all the gossip that we don't hear from others while out and about in the supermarket or the shops. We were recently over for dinner at Fred and Lucy's, our friends who have bought and converted an old farm into great Gites and now about to become a cookery school. Fred is being rather nervous about his first customers, as the school part is not completely finished; all needs to be ready for the beginning of March. I don't envy him at all but I'm sure it will be ready for his customers then as they both work tirelessly towards that.
Elsewhere in the village, certainly since I first came here, I get the feeling that there is a certain air of optimism and expectancy around despite our bookings being much slower to start this year. Maybe, once we have all our paperwork problems solved, it will be better for us. By the way, we did have the duck last night and it was delicious!
Rural France? I love it.
Barry Paton ? Feb 2004